Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism
Kamarck, Edward L.
Editorial comment: on winning friends and influencing people PDF (1.7 MB)
ON WINNING FRIENDS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE It is impossible for a contemporary journal of the arts to get itself well liked by everybody. No matter how determinedly open its editorial outlook, the journal is bound to run afoul of one or another of the disparate orthodoxies with which our culture is reft - particularly when it probes the passionately controversial issues, whether of aesthetic or political consequence. It has been our disconcerting experience that the fact of exploration in itself is often deemed prima facie evidence of unique commitment to a particular encampment. Over the years we have in varying degrees, depending upon the focus of a particular issue, sensed ourselves to be embraced or repulsed by a variety of groups. The issue on The Geography and Psychology of Urban Cultural Centers elicited huzzahs from certain academicians, from architects and city planners, and from managing directors of performing arts centers; our general readership seemed rather indifferent; but a few of the aggressively alienated let us know of their scorn for this obvious identification with "establishment culture." On the other hand, the Happenings and Intermedia issue brought in new subscriptions from those communities on both coasts where interest in icon-breaking is strong; from elsewhere in America came primly written notes of icy politeness informing us that the sender no longer had an interest in subscribing. Happily, in this instance the former far outweighed the latter, but it is nevertheless saddening to realize that many friends of art are prone to deliberately circumscribe the range of their curiosities. Winning friends cannot, of course, be a prime objective of ARTS IN SOCIETY, although like any institution we are not averse to applause, the more widespread the better. Influencing people is another matter. Our sponsorship by a university presupposes a responsibility to educate, to inform, to try to broaden general understanding of the dynamism of contemporary culture. All of these must imply the charge to look objectively into the crooks and crannies of the American art experience, and particularly into those areas where the action is. In a time of widespread social upheaval some of the action is likely as not to be found in rather disreputable places and to be associated with rebellious and even violent commitments. Whatever our moral or political stance, we must view the art churned up by the powerful passions of these times as being of vital significance - if not on aesthetic grounds (and by the admission of its creators much of the so-called "committed" art is deliberately provocative and shocking), then most certainly for its impact on the prevailing cultural ethos. Those who turn away in repugnance are likely to achieve little understanding of the emerging new America of the seventies. This issue on The Arts of Activism, which Morgan Gibson has guest-edited, was not designed to win friends from any of the orthodoxies - and most obviously not those of polite culture. It is hoped, however, that all readers will find its influence to be salutary, because it seeks to further greater understanding of the revolutionary condition of the culture of our time. Edward L. Kamarck